When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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Black Lives Matter (BLM) Term Analysis

The phrase Black Lives Matter is both a slogan (sometimes seen in the hashtag form #BlackLivesMatter) and an anti-racist movement that was built around the slogan. Introduced via a Facebook conversation between Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Alicia Garza after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013, Black Lives Matter as a slogan is still used in antiracist protests across the globe today, especially those with a focus on ending police violence. The Black Lives Matter movement was started by Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal Tometi and, as of 2021, still exists as a network of local chapters around the U.S. BLM is one of many movements that falls under the umbrella of the Movement for Black Lives.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist

The When They Call You a Terrorist quotes below are all either spoken by Black Lives Matter (BLM) or refer to Black Lives Matter (BLM). For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin's Griffin edition of When They Call You a Terrorist published in 2020.
Chapter 2 Quotes

For my brothers, and especially for Monte, learning that they did not matter, that they were expendable, began in the streets, began while they were hanging out with friends, began while they were literally breathing while Black […] For us, law enforcement had nothing to do with protecting and serving, but controlling and containing the movement of children who had been labeled super-predators simply by virtue of who they were born to and where they were born, not because they were actually doing anything predatory.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Monte Cullors
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

I will learn later that my brother had been driving and had gotten into a fender bender with another driver, a white woman, who promptly called the police. My brother was in an episode and although he never touched the woman or did anything more than yell, although his mental illness was as clear as the fact that he was Black, he was shot with rubber bullets and tased.

And then he was charged with terrorism.

Literally.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Monte Cullors
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

The sheer number of individuals who were kicked in the testicles, set upon and beaten by several deputies at once, individuals who were tased for no apparent reason other than the entertainment of guards, who had bones broken by guards wielding flashlights and other everyday tools that became instruments of extreme violence in America’s largest jail, is breathtaking enough. But other elements of the torture almost break me as I read the words of a civilian who testified about a wheelchair-bound prisoner whom deputies pulled off his bed, kicked and kneed in his ribs, back and neck and then shot with pepper spray in his face. I begin to hyperventilate and remember my brother on his knees drinking out of the toilet. My God.

I can’t breathe.

We can't breathe.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Monte Cullors
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

And then my friend Alicia writes a Facebook post. Alicia, who I’d known for seven years at this point, who I’d met at a political gathering in Rhode Island where at the end of the day our goal was to dance until we couldn’t dance anymore […] she writes these words in the wake of the acquittal:

btw stop saying that we are not surprised. that’s a damn shame in itself. I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. And I will continue that. stop giving up on black life. black people, I will NEVER give up on us. NEVER.

And then I respond. I wrote back with a hashtag:

#BlackLivesMatter

Related Symbols: Trayvon Martin
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Police, the literal progeny of slave catchers, meant harm to our community, and the race or class of any one officer, nor the good heart of an officer, could change that. No isolated acts of decency could wholly change an organization that became an institution that was created not to Protect but to catch, control and kill us.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker)
Related Symbols: Helicopters
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

And then I ask the people there on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to please just stop for a moment, to hold space for Trayvon Martin, to hold space for his parents left in grief and an unspeakable pain. And when I do that it seems like the police are going to pounce; they move in closer and closer and I am scared. But I ask again for a moment of remembrance for Trayvon, and as far as I can tell, every single person within reach of my voice, and all of them white as far as I can see, puts down their champagne glass and their silver fork and stops checking their phone or having their conversation and then every last one of them bows their head.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Trayvon Martin’s Killer
Related Symbols: Trayvon Martin
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Since Black Lives Matter was born in 2013 we have done some incredible work. We have built a decentralized movement that encourages and supports local leaders to name and claim the work that is needed in order to make their communities more just […] But we have more than 20 chapters across the United States, in Canada and the UK, all autonomous but all connected and coordinated. We have centered and amplified the voices of those not only made most vulnerable but most unheard, even as they are on the front lines at every hour and in every space: Black women—all Black women.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker)
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:
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Black Lives Matter (BLM) Term Timeline in When They Call You a Terrorist

The timeline below shows where the term Black Lives Matter (BLM) appears in When They Call You a Terrorist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: We Are Stardust
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...other hand, was not imprisoned. And when Patrisse and others started the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the wake of his acquittal, they were called terrorists. This was in July... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...lived a life plagued by both poverty and the police, like many others in the BLM movement. Growing up during the war on drugs, neighborhoods like hers were war zones. White... (full context)
Chapter 11: Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...She will never give up on Black life. Patrisse writes a comment that simply says “#BlackLivesMatter.” They start to strategize on a campaign together, looping in Opal Tometi, a Black immigration... (full context)
Chapter 12: Raid
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...Now has been demanding that the sheriff’s department be held accountable but also supporting the BLM movement, which makes them a police target. St. Elmo’s was raided earlier in the year... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Patrisse, her friend and fellow BLM activist JT, and his daughter hide in a corner of the cottage as the helicopters... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Call, a Response
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Back in summer 2013, Patrisse and Alicia are talking regularly and decide to turn #BlackLivesMatter into a movement that raises awareness of the deadliest parts of anti-Black racism. The seeds... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...a march committee of mostly Black women, a crew that will become the core of BLM-Los Angeles. Their list of demands includes federal charges against Trayvon’s killer, the release of a... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...on slashing police budgets and investing in jobs, schools, and parks. They are clear that Black lives matter both by virtue of their birth and the work Black people have put into people,... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
The first year of BLM comes in fits and starts. More and more Black people are killed: in Michigan, a... (full context)
Chapter 14: #SayHerName
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Patrisse, Opal, Alicia, and Darnell Moore (a professor who will help build out the BLM network) decide they have to go to Ferguson. Some organizers on the ground tell them... (full context)
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...always name that they are queer- and trans-led, and to work with Black trans organizations. BLM also decides to always have an evolving political framework. (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...on the men. This will continue to be true as news outlets cover the growing BLM movement; Patrisse, Alicia, and Opal will not be invited to speak on news programs at... (full context)
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...the whole story and publishes an essay about Patrisse in late 2014. Then, Essence turns BLM into a front-page story, the first article to center the three women’s experience. (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
On Sunday, the church has a service dedicated to BLM, and many protestors attend. The pastor gives a sermon calling congregants to commit to the... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
In December, Alicia and Opal come to LA to discuss building out the BLM network. The movement is growing: people want to organize by region and also by expertise... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...who doesn’t agree to nonmonogamy, and then JT, her longtime friend who is part of BLM. They are talking about having a child together when they hear about Sandra Bland, a... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...because death inside facilities is so rarely talked about, or because women have been leading BLM since the start. Patrisse knows she has to amplify this story and reaches out to... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Patrisse has some regrets about the action—now, she would tell the full BLM network what they’re planning. But in 2015, they move fast; less than a week after... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Patrisse and the other BLM members sing “Which side are you on?” and one activist gets on stage to talk... (full context)
Chapter 15: Black Futures
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...a baby—so she goes outside to call Future. Future is genderqueer and a leader of BLM Toronto (where unarmed Black people are also being killed by police), so their friendship for... (full context)
Chapter 16: When They Call You a Terrorist
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...organizing work that needs to happen in the U.S, and Future agrees to stay. The BLM chapters are all doing critical work in their locales, including, in LA, stopping the construction... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Since BLM began in 2013, the organization has achieved so much: they’ve built a decentralized movement that... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Yet there is still so much that BLM wants to achieve, like fighting Trump’s presidency, developing rapid response networks for violence and ICE... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...tell them they have the power to change the world, that they are what “ Black lives matter ” looks like. (full context)